Guide to saving money on textbooks

Guide to saving money on textbooks

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(Photo by Emily DeShazer / The Collegian) Although used books have the same information as new copies, they are often noticeably cheaper.

With the new semester starting, students at K-State will face the all too familiar pain that comes with buying textbooks. In its guide to understanding college costs, The College Board, an organization that promotes higher education and administers the SAT, advised students to budget approximately $1,200 each year for textbooks and other course materials. With textbooks becoming such a financial burden, it’s no wonder students dread the process of buying them each semester.

The costs of textbooks are high, but they are a necessity. However, using these steps will help ensure that you buy textbooks in the most cost-effective and stress-free manner.

Shop online:

Despite being the most convenient place to buy textbooks due to its location, the local book store is typically not the best place to buy them. Bookstores in college towns are notorious for being the least student friendly environments in which to buy and sell textbooks. The prices are often higher than online retailers and you only get a fraction of what you paid for when you sell the books back. The most cost-effective way of purchasing textbooks is to buy them online. Online retailers such as Amazon, Chegg and Half.com are more competitive with their pricing when it comes to buying, renting and selling books. Price comparison tools such as booksprice.com allow you to compare multiple online offers for the same book to find the best price.

Rent books:

Renting textbooks is a great way to save money as opposed to buying them. In a December 2010 post on Mint.com, a financial management program, titled “Is Renting Textbooks Really Cheaper Than Buying Them?” author Reyna Gobel argues that in multiple scenarios, renting textbooks at half or even 75 percent of the price of a new book is worth the expense. The prices of book rentals vary depending on the book and whether you rent a new or used copy, but rentals are almost always cheaper than buying a new book. Online book vendors rent books at competitive prices and often offer free return shipping.

Renting books is typically cheaper, but you also need to take extra care of rental books so that you don’t lose any money when you return them. Another disadvantage with rental books is that resale is not an option. To save on costs while not having to deal with returning books, you could also try buying used books.

Used books:

Used books can save you a fortune, and, if they’re in good condition, used books are usually worth the price. Buying used books either from friends or online vendors has become incredibly easy over the years. At K-State, you can find multiple Facebook groups, Criagslist posts and websites dedicated to facilitating book sales between students where prices are often lower than those at the campus bookstore. Online vendors also often include ratings, the condition of the book and special offers which may factor into making a decision that is right for you.

Buy older versions:

Buying an older version of a textbook is another good option, but it is also a bit tricky. In some cases, the change in content between an older and newer version of a textbook is minimal. When this is the case, it is easy to coordinate with the teacher and other students to bridge the gap between the two versions. In other cases, the newer version of a textbook can be vastly different from the older version and bridging the gap becomes a lot more difficult. The best way to determine if buying an older version is worth it is talking to your instructor before you buy it.

Considering when to buy new:

While renting or buying used books can save you money, for some classes buying a new book might be worth the cost. Textbooks for certain classes such as core classes in your major could be useful as reference materials beyond the duration of the semester or even your time in college. In these cases, textbooks should be treated as an investment in your future rather than a burden to be borne during the semester.

Ultimately, it all comes down to asking yourself whether the cost is worth the benefit. Buying a new textbook is incredibly convenient and the most effective way to stay up to date in class. However, it is also often extremely expensive. By spending a bit more time planning, researching and coordinating with other students and teachers, you can save a lot of money on a necessary expense while acquiring valuable information.

  • Jeff

    You did not mention eBooks. eBooks are actually the most cost effective way to purchase course content. I would suggest that you update your article with a cost comparison of eBooks vs. regular print. It can be as much as 50% cheaper than traditional print especially for multiple semester courses like Physics, Calc, Accounting, etc. Also, you need to point out that tuition costs have increased more than text/course content. Instead of bashing textbook/course content costs lets give some equal time to constant increase in tuition costs.

  • S.

    While eBooks can be a viable option for some, they aren’t for everyone. They require a device such as a (charged) laptop or tablet at all times, which can limit their effectiveness. Ever tried to study outside or in a car with a laptop or tablet, or grab a library computer during finals week? Not very easy.

    Screens are also often smaller, and reading large amounts of text on a screen has been linked to computer vision syndrome (http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/computer-vision-syndrome). eBooks also can’t usually be resold or returned, adding to their overall cost. Many people just prefer a physical textbook, which can also be used for multiple semesters.

    Here are multiple articles about the tuition hikes: http://www.kstatecollegian.com/?s=tuition